Stranded in Sunshine By Eric Henderson*
Publisher: Flickerlamp Publishing
Whenever I come across anything described as “unique,” my right eyebrow raises ever so slightly, but with respects to Henderson’s debut novel this is fair.
Stranded in Sunshine is the story of what happens when 11 people are invited to live in a recently abandoned shopping mall in order to create, a small sector of, civilization anew. While the premise may read as the plot to a reality show, it’s in the method Henderson chose to deliver the story that helps it earn its “unique” cred. Each chapter is through the eyes of a different character and plays out like a satirical soap opera.
“‘Forget technology, we’re starting… drum roll, please… A Better Place.’”
As I started reading I had mixed feelings if I would enjoy the book. It didn’t open with the strongest of paragraph grabs, but the prologue left me intrigued enough to wonder who the first two characters were, who the rest would be, and how this whole thing was going to unfold. I stayed a little iffy until about 20 pages in where it picked up and I was on board to see it through to the end (thanks to the page design and chapter length this goes by rather quickly).
What I found most interesting, was how my opinion of the characters was called into question with each additional perspective. Someone I could hate one moment, I might find myself sympathizing several chapters later, or someone I thought was a decent person may have a darker or less than flattering side.
A writer takes a huge risk by experimenting with narrative in this way. There is more pressure to make sure the story doesn’t get lost in the sea of personas and that the characters themselves are distinct enough to be interesting. Henderson succeeds in giving his characters their own voices without piling on a bunch of tedious information readers have to remember in order to keep track of them. An impressive feat since even some television series can have the audience lose track of who’s who.
The story has its share of humor, drama, humorous drama, sex and violence, but it rarely comes off as gratuitous. At different points I wanted more story, but overall felt it was sufficient and an enjoyable read. So, if you’re looking to take a break from television (or Netflix), but still want to be entertained, consider giving Stranded In Sunshine a shot. On the other hand if “literary” substance is more your reading preference then it may not be your thing. Of course, you could just read the sample from amazon here and decide for yourself 😉
*Full Disclosure: I was contacted by the author and given an Advanced Reader Copy of this book. At the time, I did not know the author beyond social media and some email correspondence, but since then do consider him a friend. He did not, however, see this review before it was posted. If you are interested in having a work reviewed by me feel free to get in touch.